THE LAND-GRANT MISSION IN THE 21ST CENTURY

THE LAND-GRANT MISSION IN THE 21ST CENTURY

THIS ISSUE of Colorado State Magazine offers a new look at an old idea.

Land-grant universities were created as engines of the American Dream – offering the opportunity of education to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue it. When President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act that brought these universities into being, he did so with the conviction that educated people would provide the leadership, innovation, and character to guide the young country forward to economic and social progress.

For the past 150 years, that original vision has pretty much played out as planned – land-grant universities have educated our citizenry and advanced research in nearly every area of our understanding. But concerns about shrinking job options, stagnant salaries, and rising student debt have caused some people to wonder if the path we’ve traveled to this point has now taken us off course. In the shadow of the Great Recession, six in 10 Americans in a 2014 poll reported the sense that the American Dream is beyond their reach. Young people, in particular, expressed significant doubt that they would be able to achieve the same level of economic security their parents enjoyed, much less surpass it as previous generations have been able to do.

In this climate, I continue to believe the land-grant university is one of our greatest assets as a country and as individuals. Students at public four-year universities like Colorado State continue to see a great return on their investment in higher education and to graduate with far lower than average debt loads, and their return in terms of employment, wage gap, and life satisfaction has never been higher. The investments we’ve made at Colorado State in quality, access, and people are having a transformative impact that we see in everything from record fundraising to the growing competitiveness of our students, faculty, and alumni on the international stage. Colorado State research is having an impact on every continent and addressing the most profound challenges facing our world. The evolving sophistication of our campus landscape is a mirror of our impressive, upward trajectory as an institution. And the University is making significant strides in tapping a more diverse and talented group of leaders – including more women in senior leadership roles than ever in our history.

Still, if we want Colorado State to continue to be relevant, responsive, and respected in the century ahead, we’ve got to consistently take a hard look at how we can reach for excellence in everything we do. That was my thinking last fall, when I challenged the campus to take on an intensive “re-envision” process – to invite ideas on how we can be better and serve better in all dimensions. That Re-Envision Colorado State process is ongoing, and you can learn more about it in this issue – along with a close-up look at how we’re continuing to make the 150-year-old vision of land-grant universities an effective model for progress in the 21st century

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